Locally know as dragon country because of its S shape, Vietnam has everything which one can expect – mountains, coastline, monuments, history, sand dunes, beaches, and delta. Landing directly in Vietnam, from Europe / North America, can give you a cultural shock. Roads are extremely busy, and culture very different. Empty and quiet roads of America and Europe should be completely forgotten before landing in Vietnam. And concept of personal space will need to be redefined.
Probability is that you will be coming to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City from Cambodia or from Bangkok where you would have stayed for a night or two atleast. This is where Bangkok fits in so nicely. It eases you in to chaotic SE Asia through its own little chaos acting as warm-up or trailer. You will find me using the word chaos often for Asia, but it is actually the big crowd / busyness that I want to highlight. Unstructured-ness though of course exists.
Spending anything less than one month will be doing un-justice to Vietnam. Experts say six weeks. I spent two months in one trip and I have some more to see. In spite of its reputation and examples that I saw, I would still recommend doing Vietnam on a moto-bike when ever possible. Accidents are not as frequent as they appear or are made out to be. I saw more unhurt drivers than hurt drivers. Majority of accidents happen due to carelessness / inexperience of driver. If you drive fast on loose gravel, you are bound to lose control no matter how sure or firm control you have. Having said that, I consider myself lucky to have been narrowly missed by couple of, 10 wheels or bigger, truck when it was over taking me.
Many conceive Vietnam to be a ‘different’ country. ‘It is a communist country’. It is, but there is nothing wrong or bad about it. It manages it economy in a different style, but has still attained decent level of development in spite of long wars. I think the way it functions or the aura it carries, adds a unique appeal to it. I too had such notions and thought before landing or even after landing. But once I travelled a little into Vietnam I realized how wrong I was. I will not be one of those few traveler who visited Vietnam. Guess will have to go to Antarctica on Do It Yourself (DIY) trip to attain realize this wisdom and that too fast
Weather of Vietnam:
Vietnam is largely a warm country with exception of North, quite close to India.
North – North has all four seasons – hot summers, cold winters, spring and autumn. Winter temperatures in North reduce to between 10 – 15 degrees Celsius in night and more in the northern highlands eg. Sapa. Rains are heaviest in July and August. Good warm clothes are a must in December and January when in Hanoi or northern highlands. This period tends to be misty; hence visibility in Halong Bay / Sapa etc reduces considerably at times.
In summers, temperatures reach 35 and around and highlands are a wonderful escape from the heat with pleasantly cool temperatures.
Central & South – With the exception of highlands such as Dalat, temperatures tend to remain above 30 degrees all year around. Hence summer clothing is sufficient whenever you visit.
Central coast land eg. Hoi An, Hue, and Da Nang, is at its wettest between September and December. However coastal areas of Nha Trang and Mui Ne receive considerably less rain throughout the year. Though in transition area, temperatures are comparable to summers throughout the year. South remains hot throughout the year. June and July are particularly wet for South eg. HCMC / Saigon and Phu Quoc islands.
North Vietnam – Hanoi, Sapa / Ha Giang / Bac Ha (Mountains), Ninh Binh, Tam Coc, Halong Bay
Central Vietnam – Nha Trang, Hue, DMZ, Hoi An, Caves, Dalat
South Vietnam – Mue Ne, Ho Chi Minh, Can Tho, Cau Doc, Ha Tien
For amazing landscapes, history, beautiful people and culture, and Asia!
With rains spread out throughout the year across regions, there is no single best time to go. With limited visibility in north during winters, Halong Bay and Sapa, key attractions of region are tricky due to limited views. June – July are particularly wet months for North and South and September to December for coastal attractions of Hoi An and Nha Trang, and Dalat. I landed in Vietnam on August 11th and exited on October 7th. I started from North and went down to South witnessing only five days of rain.
Direct flights from Europe are far and few. Most common route is a flight change in Bangkok or in bigger countries of East Asia such as Singapore / Malaysia / Japan and more.
Traveling within Vietnam:
Traveling within Vietnam is very comfortable. If will have option between train and bus almost always with flight as third alternative in few cities. Bus tickets can be booked one day in advance if not half day. For train tickets at most two day advance planning it required.
Staying in Vietnam:
Vietnam has one of the cheapest hotels globally. Dorm beds are available from $5. Decent hotel rooms are available from $8 in small cities and $12 – $15 in bigger cities.
Eating & Food:
Vietnam can keep you taste buds happy. Food uses mix of different spices but is not hot. Vegetarian food is also easily available. Street food, a characteristic trait of East Asia, is widely available in big and small towns alike.
Potential more widely available than water at times! Every café or restaurant has its own wi-fi and they list their password publicly for you to unhesitantly use it.
I have visited almost all popular places in Vietnam and little more. Please click below to read about a city in detail. I will be adding more cities daily.